Mental health problems among teens are the leading causes of health-related disability among children and adolescents worldwide. The popularity of mental health disorders has been reported to increase in adolescence with estimates indicating that up to 20% of children and adolescents have mental health disorders, which accounts for a large portion of the global burden of the disease. In America, mental health disorders among teens have an estimate 13% of adolescents reported having a major depressive episode, a 60% increase from the year 2007.

In the fall of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. Across the country, educators and health experts began working to make mental health a top concern in the classroom, but realized that for Black students, accessing treatment is extremely difficult.

“Specifically in the Black community, we have this thing where we feel like we can handle everything in our own household,” said school counselor Sylvester Hanner.

The decline in mental health among teenagers was intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic but predated it, spanning racial and ethnic groups, urban and rural areas, and the socioeconomic divide. Managing a mental health crisis can be challenging for teenagers and their parents. “I’d rather they see a psychiatrist,” she said. “But if I’ve got this child and they’re cutting and saying they’re going to kill themselves, I’ll say, ‘Well, I’ll see them today.’ If I call a child psychiatrist, they say, ‘I’ll see them in a month.’”  

Here are some Stats:

  • Mental distress: More than 40% of teens said they persistently felt sad or hopeless during 2021, a CDC survey found.
  • Risky behavior: The same survey found increased use of alcohol and drugs during the shutdown.
  • Abuse: 55% reported emotional abuse from a parent or other adult in the home. Over 10% reported physical abuse.

American adolescents are undergoing an abrupt change for three decades ago, the public health threats to teenagers came from drinking, drunken driving, teenage pregnancy, and smoking. Today Health risks in adolescence are undergoing a major shift of anxiety, depression, suicide, self-harm, and other serious mental health disorders. Recent studies indicate that approximately one in five teens between ages twelve and eighteen suffer from at least one diagnosable mental health disorder. Numerous hospital and doctor groups have called it a national emergency, citing rising levels of mental illness, a severe shortage of therapists and treatment options, and insufficient research to explain the trend. For teenagers having trouble opening up, try working together on a shared hobby or activity without bringing up their mental health. Put them at ease, and eventually, they may be more willing to share but the issues are typically very hard for a teen to talk about with their parent or guardian. Be a patient and active listener at first, reflect the teen what they are saying, thinking, and feeling.

 Psychiatrists in the country are scarce leaving the community doctors a routine deal with complex psychiatric issues, making tough diagnoses after brief visits and prescribing powerful psychiatric medications for lack of better alternatives. According to the research, seventy percent of counties in the United States lack a psychiatrist specializing in children or adolescents and the psychiatrists who can be found are concentrated in wealthier areas, with many accepting only private payments. Experts point to many possible factors. Lifestyle changes have led to declines in sleep, physical activity, and other healthful activities among adolescents. This generation professes to feel particularly lonely, a major factor in depression and suicide. Social media is often blamed for these changes, but there is a shortage of data establishing it as a cause.

Anthony Tilghman

Anthony Tilghman, is an 2x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the...

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